Philippe collapsed onto the dew-damp grass, gasping for breath. He stared up at the sky. Although it felt hot enough to be midday, a million stars twinkled down on him, and the moon was full and bright.
Then the whole night sky was eclipsed by the face of Chevalier, looking down at him with a quizzical expression.
"You appear to be lying on the lawn," Chevalier observed.
"What of it? I can lie down where I please."
"Indeed. But, you may recall, you were not a minute ago engaged in a game of 'it'. In fact you are, currently, 'it'. Therefore your job is to run." Chevalier illustrated his point by making his fingers demonstrate the motion of running. Philippe wanted to capture those fingers in his mouth and suck them.
Which just made him warmer still. "It's too hot to run," he said.
"Consider our current position. You are 'it'. I am not. If I were to touch you at this moment you would, by the rules of the game, become 'double it'. You would have to tag twice to rid yourself of the burden. You are at a great disadvantage."
Philippe poked Chevalier in the arm. "You're it."
Chevalier gasped, outrage commanding his features. Philippe giggled.
Chevalier prodded Philippe in the chest. "You're it."
"That's cheating. I'm lying down."
"There's nothing in the rules about lying down."
"In that case…." Philippe grabbed Chevalier and wrestled him to the ground, then kissed him on the nose. "You're it."
Chevalier tickled his ribs through his shirt. Philippe wondered vaguely where his waistcoat was. It had been a long night. Frankly he was surprised he still had his breeches on. Even more so that the Chevalier was more dressed than he, sporting shirt, breeches and a coat. It wasn't the same coat he'd started the evening with, but small matter.
"You're it." A tweak to Chevalier's ear.
"You're it." A slap to the back of Philippe's hand.
"You're it." A kiss to Chevalier's neck.
A kiss to Philippe's lips.
It proved to be a very long kiss. Chevalier's mouth was soft and his tongue inquisitive, and his hands eager to burrow under Philippe's shirt.
"It's so hot," Philippe complained. "I'm all sweaty. What happened to the others?"
Chevalier nibbled on his ear. "I'm not sure. No doubt they were thrown into confusion when their target disappeared. We could go and find them, I suppose."
"I'm too hot to move."
"I have no remedy for that. Unless I were to remove your breeches."
"Since that is where we are, and you refuse to move, then yes."
"And you should do the same."
"It is a trifle warm. I have a further suggestion. We should both strip completely naked and take a dip in the lake."
"Are you quite mad?"
"Just think of it. All that cool, fresh water caressing your naked skin." He brushed his fingertips over Philippe's bare hip.
"It's dark. It's the middle of the night."
"It's the middle of summer. The sun barely sets before it rises again."
Philippe paused for a moment in consideration, his eyelids fluttering as Chevalier traced teasing circles around his belly button. There was much to recommend the plan. However, it was also very nice lying here on the grass while Chevalier caressed him.
"It is twenty or thirty yards to the lakeside," he said. "That is quite a long way."
"If we do not swim," Chevalier said, flicking his hair over one shoulder, "there would be no reason to remove our clothes."
"None at all. And furthermore, we should probably stop all physical contact."
"Are you sure?" Philippe reached up for a kiss, but Chevalier sprang away.
"I could not possibly risk you overheating any further, if we were to continue thus."
Philippe sighed and closed his eyes, a pout upon his lips.
"I must say, I am surprised," said Chevalier. "That you would decline a romantic invitation to a midnight swim."
There were many routes of resistance remaining for Philippe. He considered his reply. It was way past midnight. There was little romance in pond-weed, and even less in water so cold that one's prick was likely to shrivel to nothing.
But it was so very warm.
He opened one eye. Chevalier looked down at him with such an expression on his face: the perfect blend of yearning and love that Philippe could never refuse.
"Oh, very well. Help me up."
They sauntered down the hill to the lake. Torches lit the path all around it - a safety precaution for the summer months, following the unfortunate incident of the Comtesse de Montfort, the duck and the kitchen maid - and the water looked so pretty, circled with fire and dappled in moonlight. It was romantic.
Chevalier stripped without hesitation, quickly exposing his golden skin to the air. "Come along, Mignonette. Join me."
Philippe realised he had been so spellbound by Chevalier's nudity that he had made no effort to undress himself. It took next to no time, however, to add his shirt and breeches to the pile of clothes Chevalier had left by the steps. The air was a warm kiss to his skin, and the water really did look inviting. Chevalier stared shamelessly at him, clearly liking what he saw. Philippe stepped closer, and Chevalier kissed him, stroked his hair over his shoulders.
"You're it," he whispered. "Catch me."
And with that he turned and dove neatly into the lake.
Philippe dipped in a toe, only to snatch it out. The water was cold. Freezing cold. It sent shivers through his foot, all the way to his knee. Perhaps this wasn't such a good idea after all. How on earth could Chevalier…
Philippe looked out over the lake, and his heart all but stopped.
Where was he? There was no sign, not so much as a ripple on the surface of the lake.
Oh no. What if he had been overcome by the cold? Snagged his foot on a weed? What if a duck—
"Chevalier!" Philippe threw himself into the lake, diving deep, the dark water stinging his eyes. He searched blind, groping for any sign of Chevalier, surfacing only when his lungs burned for air.
He found himself face to face with the object of his search. He was laughing.
"That's not funny! I thought you drowned!"
"Ah, Mignonette. I am flattered that you would throw yourself so quickly to my aid."
"Well, I won't next time! How dare you—"
Chevalier's lips were on his; their bodies pressed together and water lapped around them. The heat of the day finally leeched from Philippe's body; he felt cool, refreshed, sharp of thought.
Chevalier laughed again, not in mockery this time but a soft, delighted song of a laugh. He swam away and Philippe followed; they rolled together in the water; they kissed; they played; and in the end they sat on the steps, Chevalier's coat draped across both their shoulders, and watched the sun rise, turning the water red and orange.
Once it was light, Philippe took Chevalier to bed. They made love on soft, white sheets, and then Chevalier fed him strawberries and pastries, and Philippe licked sticky honey from his fingers, and that led to other things.
Philippe lay on his bed, gasping for breath, crumbs and honey everywhere, staring up at the ceiling, where rays of sunshine sparkled on the red and gold. A breeze flowed through the open windows.
"How are you, my Mignonette? Too hot? Too cold?"
"Just right," Philippe whispered, and pulled Chevalier in close for a kiss.